What Exactly Is The Etiquette On How Much Cash To Give At Weddings?
As unromantic as the idea of cash as a form of wedding present can seem, giving money at weddings is by no means a new concept. Although many people associate this tradition with Chinese weddings, it is also one that is found in other cultures. For example, in Polish weddings, guests pin money on the bride’s dress at the reception; and in Nigerian weddings, the couple is sprayed with money while dancing and literally showered with cash.
Annette Corrie, director of the Wedding Planner Institute in Australia, estimates that approximately 80% of all Australian weddings now ask for money as a wedding gift instead of a traditional gift.
Yet even though the gift registry has unequivocally been cast aside in favour of a wishing well, many people are still left stumped as to how much to give a couple who are about to say their ‘I do’s’.
The truth is there is no magic number, set figure or Silicon Valley algorithm that will tell you how much money is the ‘right’ amount. However, here are some things to consider in determining an appropriate figure.
#1 How close are you to the couple?
First things first: relationship. It’s safe to say that you’re more likely to give a larger sum of money to a childhood best friend than you are to a work colleague that you’ve known for 6 months.
Some people also choose to abide by the ‘blood is thicker than water’ maxim; however, the same principle of closeness also extends to family: give more to your sister than to your second cousin once removed.
#2 How much can you afford?
It may be the wedding of your BFF who has stuck by you through thick and thin. If you could, you’d give them the world; in reality, however, you’re a full-time student trying to make ends meet and pay your rent by working three casual jobs.
The amount you give isn’t necessarily a reflection on your relationship with the bride or groom, but rather on your specific set of circumstances. Find other ways aside from a financial contribution to show how much you care about the couple—for example, you could help out with DIY wedding projects or offer to MC on the night.
#3 What else have you spent money on?
Have you already splurged on engagement, hens/bucks party and kitchen tea gifts for the couple? The general rule of thumb is to spend roughly 20% on the engagement gift, 20% on the bridal shower and 60% for the wedding gift.
Basically, the majority of money should go towards the wedding gift. Bridesmaids and groomsmen can also factor in how much they have already spent on bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen suits, accessories and the hens/bucks party.
#4 What else have you done for the couple?
Did you while away the hours baking a wedding cake for the couple? Did you put together the flower bouquets and boutonnieres? Did you design the invitations?
Helping out with other elements of the wedding can be counted as a contribution towards the wedding gift, and more often than not, the couple won’t expect a gift, given that you’ve already donated your time and labour.
However, this extends to significant tasks—helping guests find their seats at the reception may be considered a favour to the couple.
#5 How far have you travelled?
If you had to hop on a plane to attend the wedding, it’s safe to assume that your present is your presence, particularly if you’ve crossed oceans to be with the couple (some people do choose to give a small token gift on the day).
The same applies if you’re attending a destination wedding, as you’ve already given up your time (and most likely a chunk of your annual leave) and spent money on airfares to travel to the wedding.
#6 What did they give you?
It shouldn’t be a tit-for-tat situation, as every situation is different, but how much the couple gave you for your own wedding can act as a nice guideline for how much money to give.
#7 If you’re still stumped: go with the food and beverage rule
One of the common rules that get floated around is that you should pay for how much your meal and beverages cost. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how much this figure is unless you’re specifically told, or if you do some online sleuthing.
Corrie estimates that the rough cost of catering per guest in Australia is around $100–$140 per person. Some etiquette experts see this as a ‘tacky’ rule, comparing it to hosting a dinner party and expecting guests to cover the costs. Still, some people do see this as a convenient way to assist the couple in paying for what can be astronomical wedding costs.
Camha is a freelance editor and writer currently based in Perth. She is a wannabe word nerd, travel-addict and coffee enthusiast, and thinks that life is just one big Seinfeld episode (where Elaine is her BFF). She has written for Broadsheet, AWOL, The Big Bus and the Huffington Post Australia, and tweets at @curatedbycammi
Main image: Hong Kong-based Jeremy Wong Weddings